Where the term "carhop" came from

They actually did hop on cars!

Howdy, Matt: My mom says that when she was a teenager she worked as a carhop. She said she wore roller skates for her job, but she couldn’t tell me why she was called a carhop. Where did the name come from? — Marsha Levin, via email

Not very hoppy on skates, for sure, Marsha. But in the earliest days of carhopping, they actually did hop on cars. It goes like this: Apparently, within hours of the first Fords rolling off Henry’s assembly line, we decided that a really good thing to do in this new contraption is eat something. America was absolutely batty about driving. Zipping along the carriage-rutted roads of our land, with our heads out the window like a retriever, drunk on the freedom of the open road. By the early 1920s, restaurants that catered to these hordes popped up all over. The servers were men, each dressed like a waiter in a fancy-dress joint: black pants, white shirts, bow ties, and white aprons. Unfortunately, nobody was paid a wage. They were paid in tips. The more you served, the more you made. This put a premium on grabbing a new customer as soon as possible. When a new car rolled in, the waiters would rush it, and the one that hopped on the car’s running board claimed the transaction. Sounds like an entertainment the Romans might have enjoyed, what with the risks of being hit and killed. Of course, the waiters soon became “carhops” and the name stuck. I assume your mom didn’t have to re-enact a roller derby scrum for her job. Things eventually became more polite once the hops got wages.

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